The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice


The primary goal of all courts is to uphold justice for all citizens in India, necessitating the need for a single court to handle each case. This gave rise to the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice under the Code of Civil Procedure, which aims to prevent multiple cases on the same matter.

In contemporary times, this doctrine has gained prominence for its vital role in maintaining an effective judicial system. Sub Judice refers to pending cases before the court. The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice is built upon this concept and remains relevant even today.

So, what does the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice entail? Why is it more significant now? How does it benefit the judicial system? This article delves into these questions and more.


The British introduced the Code of Civil Procedure in 1858 to consolidate procedural laws in civil courts. Over time, revisions were made, and the shortcomings were addressed in the 1908 enactment of the Code of Civil Procedure. Section 10 of this code outlines the procedure for staying a lawsuit, known as the ‘Doctrine of Res Sub Judice’.

Sub Judice, as previously mentioned, is a Latin term indicating a pending case before a court. Res in Latin pertains to a specific matter or object. This doctrine stipulates that a court can halt the trial of a suit if it involves similar issues and parties already present in a suit filed earlier in another court of concurrent jurisdiction, where the case is pending. This second court automatically gains the authority to deliver a judgment. The doctrine temporarily suspends the trial in the latter court without impeding or obstructing the initiation of the suit.

This doctrine possesses a rigid nature and is not left to the discretion of individual courts. All courts in India are mandated to adhere to this doctrine. Over the years, it has played a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of courts, a subject to be explored in depth in subsequent sections.

Regarding international legal contexts, various countries follow distinct economic models and possess diverse court structures, leading to the absence of a universally accepted international civil code. The presence of civil procedures in international conventions or bilateral agreements is limited. This divergence can be attributed to nations’ sovereignty in determining their national court systems, which can result in procedural disparities in civil courts.

Despite these inconsistencies and variations in civil procedures among different states, endeavors have been made to establish some level of uniformity in civil procedures for international litigation. The Hague Conference on Private International Law, an intergovernmental organization, introduced the Service Convention and the Evidence Convention under the Civil Procedure framework, bringing numerous advantages to enhance litigation quality at the international level. India actively participated in the formulation of these conventions.

Similar initiatives are being undertaken globally to enhance judicial systems. In India, effective utilization of this doctrine is crucial to ensuring efficient court management.

Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata

The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice is codified in section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which addresses the suspension of proceedings in a specific court. When two cases involve identical parties and identical issues and are filed in separate courts with concurrent jurisdiction, a competent authority can halt the trial in the court where the latter suit was initiated. The term ‘matters in issue’ refers to the issues presented by the petitioner in the complaint against another party. In such instances, the court where the initial suit was filed and remains pending holds the authority to deliver a judgment. This doctrine prevents conflicting judgments from arising due to simultaneous litigation in different courts.


Consider a hypothetical scenario involving ABC Ltd and XYZ Ltd, both engaged in the sale of similar products. ABC Ltd initiates a trademark infringement suit in the Karnataka High Court, followed by XYZ Ltd filing a parallel claim in the Calcutta High Court. Given the identical matters and parties, the judgment issued by the Karnataka High Court holds binding authority. In the Neeta v. Shiv Dayal Kapoor case, the relevance of jurisdiction in applying Res Sub Judice is underscored. Courts possess the power to consolidate akin cases to expedite proceedings.

In the case of Neeta v. Shiv Dayal Kapoor and Others (2013)[1], a dispute emerged regarding the legal validity of a will. Despite the case being filed in the trial court, the Respondent obtained probate for the property through the Lok Adalat. This action led to a stay being placed on the Lok Adalat proceedings by the High Court. However, in this instance, the two courts lacked concurrent jurisdiction, and the Probate Court (Lok Adalat) possessed inherent authority to make such decisions. Consequently, the Court ruled that a stay cannot be imposed on subsequent court proceedings lacking concurrent jurisdiction.

Furthermore, the power to suspend trial proceedings in a specific court cannot be wielded by another court with concurrent jurisdiction. This principle was upheld in the case of Official Receiver of Coimbatore v. Palaniswami [2], asserting that a court cannot halt proceedings in another court sharing concurrent jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, it was also established that the High Court in a given state can indeed impose a stay on proceedings conducted in any District Court. This authority is derived from Article 227 of the Indian Constitution and is intended to oversee the proper functioning of subordinate courts.

Instances where the same case is filed in different courts can potentially yield contradictory judgments, despite identical matters in issue. To mitigate this concern, courts can issue orders to consolidate both cases into a single civil suit, thereby reducing delays and expenses arising from multiple cases.

In the case of Anurag and Co and Anr v. Additional District Judge and Others (2006)[3], it was declared that although Section 10, which governs the concept of Res Sub Judice, does not include provisions for suit consolidation, the inherent powers granted to the Court in Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure can provide a basis for consolidation. The court referred to the judgment in the case of Chitivalasa Jute Mills v. Jaypee Rewa Cement (2004)[4] to emphasize that consolidation’s primary purpose is to prevent the proliferation of cases and the ensuing unnecessary delays and expenses. Thus, prioritizing consolidation, even if it means deviating somewhat from the provisions of Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, is justified.

In another case, Sheopat Rai v. Warak Chand (1919)[5], it was asserted that this Section primarily outlines the procedural aspects of a civil trial. A judgment, even if issued without adhering to the proper procedure, will not be rendered null and void and will retain its binding nature as a judicial precedent for future courts.

When a judgment is delivered by the court where the suit was initially filed, it holds binding force on subsequent courts as ‘Res Judicata.’ This Latin term signifies a ‘matter that has been decided by the competent court.’ The Doctrine of Res Judicata is enshrined in Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure. If a case has already been decided by a court, a stay is placed on trial proceedings in any subsequent court where the same case is filed. This decision is considered final and cannot be revisited.

In the case of Satya Charan v. Dev Rajan (1962)[6], the court pronounced that judicial decisions should attain a definitive form and must not be revisited once a decision has been rendered. The doctrine’s fundamental purpose is to preserve a degree of finality in judgments. To invoke this doctrine, it is essential to ensure that the matters in issue in both courts are precisely the same.

Hence, the doctrines of Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata are interrelated. They share a common set of conditions for their application, as elucidated in the subsequent section.

Conditions of Res Sub Judice

The application of the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice is confined to specific circumstances, ensuring that it is not excessively exploited to impede trials of substantially distinct cases. The prerequisites for its application are outlined as follows:

  1. Civil Suit Requirement

The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice is only applicable when civil suits are initiated in both courts. Criminal cases are excluded from its purview. In the case of Hansraj Gupta and Others v. Dehradun Mussoorie Electric Tramway Co Ltd (1932)[7], the court clarified that a suit denotes a proceeding initiated by the aggrieved party or Plaintiff through the filing of a plaint. The Defendant responds by filing a written statement.

In another instance, Inderpal Singh Hassanwalia v. Bir Tibetan Woollen Mills (1973)[8], the parties entered into a contract for the sale of blankets and woollen textiles, with the dispute settlement clause specifying arbitration. Consequently, the Delhi High Court ruled that it does not constitute a civil suit, rendering Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure inapplicable.

  1. Sequential Filing of Cases

For the Doctrine to apply, two suits with identical matters in issue must be filed at different times in courts of concurrent jurisdiction. One suit is initially instituted, while the other follows subsequently. ‘Concurrent Jurisdiction’ denotes that both courts possess the necessary jurisdiction over the case. The parties should remain the same, albeit with potential alterations in their roles as Plaintiff or Defendant.

  1. Substantial Identity of Matters in Issue

All matters in issue in both cases must be exactly the same, with no disparities between the suits. They must be completely overlapping. Without this condition being met, the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice cannot lead to a stay on trial proceedings in the subsequent court. Furthermore, the decision in the court of initial trial will not serve as Res Judicata in the subsequent court. ‘Directly’ and ‘substantially’ imply uninterrupted and fundamentally, respectively.

In the case of Ragho Prasad Gupta v. Shri Krishna Poddar (1969)[9], the Supreme Court stated that when the matters in issue in the subsequent suit differ entirely from those in the initially instituted suit, neither the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice nor Res Judicata applies. Additionally, once a decree is passed based on an arbitral award, the same matter cannot be brought before a court, and both parties are bound by the decree.

  1. Inapplicability to Foreign Suits

Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure explicitly states that Indian courts are not prohibited from proceeding with the trial of a case instituted in a foreign court. Therefore, when a similar case is filed in two different countries, the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice does not apply, allowing courts in both countries to concurrently hear the case.

Illustration: If a conflict arises between citizens of two different countries, say country A and B, and a suit is instituted in Country A, while another is filed for the same matter in Country B, the Doctrine does not apply due to the suits being in different countries.

  1. Requirement of Pending Suit

The suit must be pending in the court where it was initially instituted while also having been filed in another court of concurrent jurisdiction. Only under these circumstances can a stay be imposed on proceedings in the court of subsequent institution. If the case has already been decided, it holds direct binding force on both parties.

These prerequisites constitute essential elements for the application of the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice to cases filed in different courts. If these conditions are not met, a stay cannot be placed on proceedings in the court where the suit was subsequently filed.

Objectives of Section 10

The primary objective behind the inclusion of the Doctrine of Res Sub Judice in Section 10 of the Civil Procedure Code is to facilitate the seamless operation of courts across the country. This doctrine proves advantageous to both the judicial system and the parties involved, serving a variety of purposes:

  1. Reduction of Multiplicity of Cases: The Doctrine works to curtail the proliferation of cases and the occurrence of overlapping litigations in courts operating at the same level, thereby significantly alleviating their caseload.
  2. Prevention of Contradictory Judgements: Without the Doctrine in place, the same case filed in two different courts could yield contradictory judgments. One court might rule in favor of the petitioner while the other could favor the respondent. This would give rise to confusion and complexities in decision-making. Parties might be compelled to escalate the matter to a higher court, leading to delays in the delivery of fair justice.
  3. Protection Against Harassment: From the perspective of the parties involved, the Doctrine safeguards them from unnecessary hardship stemming from simultaneous litigations conducted in courts with concurrent jurisdiction. Parties are spared from participating in parallel legal proceedings that occur simultaneously.
  4. Facilitation of Res Judicata Doctrine: The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice plays a crucial role in upholding the Doctrine of Res Judicata. By imposing a stay on the trial in the subsequent court, the decision rendered in the court where the suit was originally filed gains binding force as Res Judicata. This relationship between the two doctrines ensures legal consistency.
  5. Ensuring Efficient Court Functionality: In contrast to other legal codes that can be open to interpretation, this Doctrine furnishes a definite response regarding whether proceedings should proceed in a court or not. Simultaneously, it affords courts the discretion to determine the applicability of the Doctrine based on specific circumstances, empowered by Section 151 of the CPC. In instances such as the case of Ragho Prasad Gupta v. Shree Krishna Poddar, where the matters in issue vary, courts retain the authority to consolidate two suits into one.

In essence, this Doctrine provides a clear and unequivocal set of provisions that ensure equitable and just dispensation of justice. It also offers courts a measure of flexibility to discern the appropriateness of imposing a stay. This dual role of providing explicit guidance while allowing judicial discretion empowers the judicial system to function effectively, maintaining a delicate balance between standardization and adaptation to specific cases.

On the global stage

The lack of a uniform Code of Civil Procedure is evident due to the diverse court systems prevailing in different countries. Nonetheless, for addressing cross-border litigation, the Hague Conference has established guidelines for Civil Procedure in International Litigation.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law, founded in 1893 and currently consisting of 90 member states including India, administers conventions and protocols. Notably, the Evidence Convention (1970) outlines procedures for obtaining evidence from foreign jurisdictions through formal requests to central authorities. The Service Convention (1965) facilitates the service of judicial and extrajudicial documents across international borders in civil and commercial matters. This convention is vital for expeditious and accurate communication between parties involved in international commercial disputes.

Although the Code of Civil Procedure has seen several 20th-century developments, the concept of Sub Judice has deeper historical roots. Early instances of its application include Lord Hardwicke’s reflections and the case of R v. Fisher (1811)[10]. Lord Hardwicke attributed Sub Judice to safeguarding confidential legal proceedings from public disclosure, especially as the growth of print media led to unwarranted opinions and discussions on ongoing cases. Publications that criticized ongoing court proceedings, tarnishing their reputation or dignity, were deemed contemptuous.

This perspective evolved in the case of R v. Clement (1821)[11], where Lord Hardwicke’s principles were adapted to address prejudicing both juries and the general public. Publications that could prejudice public perception of courts or judges were considered damaging to the dignity of the courts. Consequently, many countries, including India, enacted laws such as the Contempt of Court Act to prevent parliamentary discussions or public discourse on ongoing cases to maintain the integrity of the judicial process.

The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice finds application in democratic nations that have embraced the concept of Contempt of Court in cases of Sub Judice. This doctrine has been internationally embraced as a means to ensure the proper functioning of courts and the judicial system. Its adoption reflects its significant role in maintaining the courts’ credibility and efficiency during ongoing cases.

Looking ahead, the Doctrine is anticipated to continue playing a pivotal role in the evolution of the international judicial system. As standards continue to advance, it is expected that this doctrine will contribute to further enhancing the global judicial landscape.


The Doctrine of Res Sub Judice holds global significance and contributes significantly to the effective operation of judicial systems. It not only alleviates the burden on courts but also guarantees that a single case is addressed by a single court, thus preventing contradictory verdicts. However, adherence to specific prerequisites is essential for the doctrine to be applicable, as elaborated in previous sections.

Democratic countries across the world have embraced this doctrine, and international developments in Civil Procedure Codes have been introduced to enhance the resolution of international disputes. The emergence of the concept of Contempt of Court, subsequent to the prominence of sub judice, highlights the measures taken by various nations to ensure the sanctity of court proceedings. India, for instance, has implemented legislation to make contempt of court punishable.

In India, early ambiguities regarding the term “Matters in Issue” were addressed by emphasizing substantial similarity of relevant facts in both cases for the doctrine’s applicability. However, it is noteworthy that the court in which the initial suit is filed lacks the authority to impose a stay, which might lead to situations where a case filed in another court goes unnoticed by parties other than those involved, resulting in undesirable outcomes.

Despite the doctrine’s many advantages, there is a call to broaden its scope to prevent courts from enjoying unchecked powers under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure. While the doctrine has played an indispensable role so far in streamlining court proceedings and minimizing unnecessary delays and costs stemming from parallel litigations, there remains room for its refinement to enhance India’s existing judicial system.

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Written by- Ankit Kaushik


[1] Civil Revision No 998 of 2011

[2] 1925 88 Ind Cas 934 (India)

[3] AIR 2006 Raj 119 (India)

[4] AIR 2004 SC 1687 (India)

[5]  50 Ind Cas 90 (India)

[6] AIR 1962 SC 41, (India)

[7] AIR 1932 PC 240, (India)

[8] AIR 1974 Delhi 95 (India)

[9] AIR 1969 SC 316 (India)

[10] 2 Camp. 563

[11] 4B. & Ald.218

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